FALL 2017 | INTRO TO WOODBLOCK
Flashback to June Open Studios.
Showing in downtown Oakland was amazing, and allowed me a chance to connect with my local community in a way I had never before. There were more visitors than I was accustomed to seeing, and it was also the largest body of work I had ever shown outside my tiny 120 square foot Berkeley studio. I was completely freaked out. The experience forced me to open up to more people about my what I do. I had a few standout moments, but my favorite one was meeting artist Toru Sugita. Toru is a master printmaker and head of the printmaking department at Diablo Valley College. Toru invited me to consider signing up for his woodblock class which would involve a commute and moving a few things around with my work schedule - including making a few personal sacrifices.
Honestly, going back to school this year surprised me. It’s been over 15 years since I’ve been back to college. I didn’t study art in school, but things always have a way of finding their way back if they are meant to be. I’ve loved printmaking arts long before I even understood what the craft really was. It’s been exciting, but I also felt and still feel extremely clumsy and overwhelmed by my surroundings in the print room. With time that will change. My 2017 new year’s resolution was to focus more on pushing myself to pursue new techniques I’ve always wanted to learn. That included juggling the demands of work, but spending more time on my own personal projects even if it meant the journey was going to be very uncomfortable.
Growing up around my father’s woodworking has definitely nurtured my interest in woodblock, and he’s all for it. I love being able to borrow some of his shop tools when I need to try something out. Now I’m amused to find ink all over my clothes, and band-aids on my fingers. Tiny knives do require a lot of respect (because it’s not a good idea to carve when you haven’t had enough sleep.) The smell of the ink is becoming more and more familiar to me, and I’m now an expert in wood putty drying time (to fix my block mistakes.) The physical movement of rubbing out my own prints is hard on my limbs, but extremely satisfying. All in all, this semester has not been without its share of challenges. It’s been a very personal one for me in the wake of the North Bay fires where much of the Northwest side of my hometown of Santa Rosa was destroyed. With so much loss, it’s been difficult to describe my feelings through this time, so I have tried my best to stay steady with my work, continue with my classes, and support relief efforts when I return to visit my folks on the weekends. Carving has been meditative. It has also given me a new foundation for more of the work I want to create as time goes on.
With the encouragement of some of my peers, I’ll be chronicling my beginning printmaking projects in this studio journal moving forward… For better or for worse. In my earlier years, I never would have had the patience for carving. But now, approaching mid-life it’s really something I look forward to leaning into. And so, as my Dad likes to remind me… “You’re turning over a new leaf Kelly Autumn…”